Pope’s Butler Arrested! Nuns Investigated! Which Is the Bigger Scandalo?

Let’s face it — everybody loves a juicy scandal, especially when it involves the Vatican. And dear Animals, lest you think I veer from the topic of politics to which I am pledged while guest-blogging here, I can assure you that there is nothing in the realm of the Holy See that is not political.

From the Associated Press:

The Vatican confirmed Saturday that the pope’s butler had been arrested in its embarrassing leaks scandal, adding a Hollywood twist to a sordid tale of power struggles, intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of Catholic Church governance.

Paolo Gabriele, a layman who lives inside Vatican City, was arrested Wednesday with secret documents in his possession and was being held Saturday, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

At issue are confidential letters to and from Pope Benedict XVI regarding the Vatican’s financial dealings disclosed in the recently published book, His Holiness, by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. The AP notes that the scandal “has seriously embarrassed the Vatican at a time in which it is trying to show the world financial community that it has turned a page and shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.”

So, in arresting Gabriele, the Vatican is doing what it does best with those who would challenge its sources and methods: putting the screws to them.

You’d think that the pope and his men might be so consumed with straightening out the Holy See’s financial mess, and penitentially finding the institution’s way back to the straight and narrow that they’d have little time to do much else. But, no, instead the pope has seen fit to focus his institution’s resources on a mission designed to bring U.S. nuns into line.

From Reuters’ Stephanie Simon:

The Vatican last month accused the leading organization of U.S. nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of focusing too much on social-justice issues such as poverty and not enough on abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. The Vatican also rapped the group for standing by as some nuns publicly challenged U.S. bishops on matters of church doctrine and public policy.

In a move that many nuns viewed as an insult, the Vatican put the nuns’ organization under the effective control of three U.S. bishops, who have the power to rewrite its statutes, its meeting agendas and even its liturgical texts. The board of the Leadership Conference is due to meet next week in Washington, D.C. to mull a response.

Those of a certain age may recall when, during a papal visit in 1979, Sister Theresa Kane, then president of the Leadership Conference, challenged Pope John Paul II to include women in the priesthood. At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict, was JPII doctrinal enforcer. He apparently holds a grudge.

Readers may also remember the Vatican Bank scandal of the 1980s, which involved all manner of financial shenanigans, including a counterfeiting scheme that involved the delivery of $14.5 million in bogus bonds to the Vatican. All told, the Vatican Bank scams amounted to a “$1.3 billion scandal,” according to the New York Times And back in the 1980s, $1.3 billion was real money.

In 2009, now retired from her office at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr Kane addressed a gathering of the National Coalition of American Nuns, just as the Vatican embarked on its investigation of LCWR. From the National Catholic Reporter:

“Regarding the present interrogation, I think the male hierarchy is truly impotent, incapable of equality, co-responsibility in adult behavior,” she said, not mincing any words. “In the church today, we are experiencing a dictatorial mindset and spiritual violence.”

A scandal, then, of epic proportions.